Live and Learn: Jack of many trades, master of none

By Jamie Nelson, for the Redoubt Reporter

For those who’ve adopted a multitask lifestyle, enjoying one thing at a given moment can be a challenge. Too much on your plate can strip the fun out of the now. It may even prevent you from achieving your potential at certain tasks. How can you become proficient on the new software program at work when you’re thinking about your grocery list and dentist appointment? Sometimes it takes a literal fall on your hiney to remind you to manage things one at a time.

Many of us strive for a simpler life, lower stress and more time with family. We’re all guilty of losing the simple path, and I’m no exception. When asked to take on a new task, my desire to help people usually overpowers common-sense scheduling judgment. The theater is doing its annual fundraiser? Sure I’ll play a role for the production. You need time off to be with a sick family member? Sure I’ll substitute and work with your students. The interest rate on your mortgage adjusted and you need a second opinion? I’ll be right over. People who know me are more likely to hear “sure” than “sorry, my calendar is full.”

So I’m diverse in my career. I dabble in sports and leisure. I love to perform in community theater productions. I watch more TV than I’m proud of, but I’ve never made time to watch a single episode of “Lost.” I race bicycles. Rather, I should say I complete bicycle races, far behind those who actually race bicycles. I hike, snowshoe, kayak if a friend is willing to lend one, jog at a blazingly uncompetitive pace and cross-country ski. The latter brings me to my point.

My wife has been out of town for a week visiting family. I like skiing a little more than she does, so I’d prefer to go more often than her. So I thought I’d use her time away to catch up on a few missed ski hours. But the last day before my wife’s return had arrived and the skis sat untested. The ski tunes playlist I made for my iPod had not been played since I made it over a month ago. Not that I haven’t skied at all, but if my wife can come along, I’d prefer to chat than listen to music. After a morning spent on a long work to-do list, I threw the skis and dog in the car and headed for the Kenai Golf Course. The dog trembled with anticipation.

By my count, this was our seventh winter classic cross-country skiing and my wife and I still amaze ourselves with our lack of skill. Our weaknesses expose themselves if the snow is fast and curves come on the downhill portion of a course. Neither of us is proficient at maneuvering turns on the slick stuff.

I quickly learn the fine folks at the golf course have done their usual job of keeping the course nicely groomed. The snow is faster than most days. The afternoon is stunning with crisp air and clean snow. The playlist turns out to be all I’d hoped. Artists like Mads Langer and Ben Folds encourage me to enjoy the day. Old-school New Order balances it out well. The course is a nice figure eight. The two loops come together in what I like to call the atrium. That’s where the most hills and curves are.

The fast snow proves challenging for my novice talent. On one curve I oversteer and gently fall into the deep shoulder. It’s the big hill where the action takes place. The gradual path I’m used to seeing in years past has a nice sledding ramp fashioned at the bottom. So the path is now groomed further to one side than before. I guess the groomer assumed most of us don’t like skiing off sweet jumps. This small change makes for a steep dropoff onto the top of the hill. As I begin, I’m amazed how quickly I pick up speed.  A more talented skier would say I exaggerate, but I felt like a snowboarder coming off the deck to enter the half-pipe. For a moment, I think it’s going well, then I cross an icy spot and find my skis going in all directions.

It seems it may be another mild fall with a smooth landing on a side with no twisted limbs. The sheer speed of it all proves that theory quite wrong. My hip, thigh and butt on my right side absolutely hammer onto the snow. The ground feels like cement. The area of impact is warm and throbbing. Frustration sets in.

My dog, who thinks big hills are a race, has bounded all the way to the bottom. Seeing me lying on the hill, she cuts her victory dance short and returns to check on me. Her look seems to ask, “What kind of a moron could fall on such a nicely groomed course?”

I get to my feet and assess the damage. Yep, that’s going to swell up nice. But I can move and nothing is broken. I decide to ski on and take it in stride. No sense getting down on yourself for not mastering one of the many activities you dabble in but don’t practice much. I finish the other half of the figure eight and even do a second lap. Of course, I chicken out and avoid the atrium the second time around.

In my quest to learn from mistakes and decrease my chances of breaking a hip years before it would be age-appropriate, I sought expert advice. Kent Peterson, who coaches boys and girls cross-country skiing at Skyview, offered some pointers. He said the key to any hill is to relax and keep your knees bent to absorb impact. Controlling speed is critical, especially on an unfamiliar hill.

Peterson said if it’s a hill with a curve, snowplowing is a good technique to keep speed in check. If it’s a down immediately followed by an up, he would keep his skis straight and just let the next uphill slow him back down. In my case, the hill was fairly straight and mellowed out at the bottom, so a good snowplow would have kept things under control. And made it easier for me to sit down the next day.

The day provided both a new lesson and a reminder. The lesson will hopefully improve a skill in one of my many activities. The reminder is balancing many things leaves room for improvement in most of them. In that balance, love of nachos weighs against a desire to have a girlish figure. Being great at something takes focus and devotion. If you want to taste many diverse flavors, proficiency in some areas must be sacrificed for the enjoyment of others.

For me, the reward I get from all the wonderful journeys I have in Alaska is worth the occasional fall on my butt. A reminder you don’t have to be a rock star at something to love it.

Jamie Nelson is a personal financial coach, loving husband, amateur cyclist and actor who lives in Kenai. He can be reached at


1 Comment

Filed under outdoors, recreation, skiing, winter

One response to “Live and Learn: Jack of many trades, master of none

  1. That sounds like quite the ski adventure. I’d love to get back into cross country skiing… thought about it a lot recently and regret not buying some skis before this insanity we like to call a winter set in. Sounds like you go relatively often! Nice work!

    Slightly inverse to your comment up there, Lost is the only TV show I do keep up to date on. Netflix has unfortunately made it far too easy to get caught up on plenty of movies, though, so much of my time ends up there. If you don’t have Netflix, don’t get it! It’s too good! You’ll get sucked in!

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